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The Drug-Free Workplace!

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TOPIC: Alcohol and other drugs

CONCEPT: Over the last decade, almost all businesses, large and small have adopted Drug-Free Workplace Policies. The majority of students in high school work; however, only a small number are involved in work preparation classes. High school students need to know about the content of drug-free workplace policies and the consequences of alcohol and other drug use on the job.

OBJECTIVE: Students study the purpose of drug-free workplace policies and draft their own versions of a drug-free workplace policy.

GRADE LEVEL: High School

Method: Small group activity
Time Frame: 25 minutes plus "Post Test"and "Discussion"
Material: "Drug-Free Workplace!" - one for each pair of students (see link below)

ACTIVITY: Print out "The Drug-Free Workplace". Ask how many students are planning to work while in high school, are currently looking for a job, or are employed. Ask how many of the students' employers have drug-free workplace policies. Ask how many students have read their employer's policy. Review information about the purpose and content of drug-free workplace policies (see information below). Follow immediately with the "Post-Test" questions to determine the extent to which students understand the information provided. Confirm answers by re-reading the corresponding text on the next page.

POST-TEST: After the information portion of the activity, ask the class:

  • What is the purpose of a drug-free workplace policy?

  • What does a typical drug-free workplace policy include?

  • What substances might be prohibited in the workplace?

  • What is the purpose of random drug testing?

  • What are some consequences of policy violations?

Discuss the types of organizations, institutions and businesses that would or should have a policy (list on board.) Form small groups and instruct teams to choose one of the organization, institution or business from the list on the board and create a drug-free workplace policy for it. Ask each team to share its policy.

DISCUSSION: After the presentation of the students' policies, facilitate a class discussion using the following questions and note the differences in policies.

  • Why did you choose the organization, institution or business?

  • Why do you think it is important for this entity to have a drug-free workplace policy?

  • Did the policies include the testing requirements?

  • Did the policies include consequences for violation of the policies?

  • Did the policies allow employees a second chance? Why?

  • Did the policies address what would happen if an employee violates the policy and

  • his/her actions result in an accident, injury, death and/or legal suits?

  • Did the policies include Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)?


P0LICY CONTENTS: The majority of drug-free workplace policies usually cover the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession, sale, purchase or use of controlled substances, alcoholic beverages and inhalants on the premises of the business or while an employee is representing the organization off-premises (sales reps, truck drivers, etc.). Most include a definition of intoxication and may set a blood alcohol level or concentration at or below that used by the state to determine intoxication. Some organizations extend the policy to include volunteers and consultants and others working for the organization on a donated service or contract basis.

OVER-THE-COUNTER: Many organizations have policies that also restrict the use of over-the-counter medications while on the job, specifically those medications which warn about the dangers of using the medication while operating a vehicle or handling equipment. Such over-the-counter medications include cold, flu and sinus discomfort medications, cough medications, and some headache and pain medications.

NOTIFICATION: Some policies require employees to notify their supervisors when they are taking pain medications and/or any medication with drowsiness, mental confusion or sleepiness as side effects.

TESTING: If the organization elects to use testing, the policy may include information on pre-employment and/or on-the-job testing. Most organizations hire a certified, independent laboratory to conduct all their employment-related testing. Organizations that require drug testing must notify all applicants that such testing is a requirement of employment. Pre-employment testing is just that: persons who are hired must pass a drug screen as a condition of employment. Some organizations limit testing to pre-employment tests; some retest employees after they have completed their probationary employment period. Some organizations test universally, which means all employees are tested periodically, with test times being selected randomly, so no one will have the advantage of knowing when the test will be conducted.; however, most cannot afford the cost of universal testing. Instead, many organizations test only a few employees at a time, using a random selection process, and some test only when a violation of the policy has occurred.

VIOLATIONS and CONSEQUENCES: The policy includes information on the consequences of violations of the drug-free workplace policy, which may range from reprimand to suspension, with or without pay, and/or probation, demotion and/or termination.

PREVENTION: The policy usually includes information on drug-free workplace education and information, which may be limited to printed information about the contents of the policy or may require comprehensive training for supervisors and/or all employees.

ASSISTANCE: Some organizations provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and if so, the policy will describe the availability, benefits and use of the EAP in support of the drug-free workplace policy.

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